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congregation for institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life

contemplate Year of Consecrated Life “You whom my heart loves� (Song 1:7) To consecrated men and women on the path of Beauty

All documents are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society

catholic truth society publishers to the holy see

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contemplate Year of Consecrated Life “You whom my heart loves� (Song 1:7) To consecrated men and women on the path of Beauty

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“Authentic love is always contemplative� (Pope Francis)

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Contents Dearest brothers and sisters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 PROLOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Listening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Consecrated life, statio orante in the heart of history . . . . . . . . . 13 SEEKING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Listening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 The everyday apprenticeship of seeking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Pilgrims to the core . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Quaerere Deum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

The search in the night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Desire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 DWELLING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Listening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 In the form of Beauty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 The Beauty that wounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 The Beauty that renews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

An exercise of truth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Holiness that welcomes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

The listening that sees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Quies, requies, otium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 The ineffable memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

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FORMATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Listening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Beauty’s way of living . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

Mystical pedagogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Paschal pedagogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

The pedagogy of beauty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 The pedagogy of thought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

Mercy is close by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 In the dance of creation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

A new philokalia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

EPILOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Listening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 On the mountain, in the sign of fulfilment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 On the way to God’s safekeeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 FOR REFLECTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Hail, Woman clothed with the sun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

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Dearest brothers and sisters, 1. The Year of Consecrated Life - a precious and blessed journey - has crossed its zenith, while the voices of consecrated men and women from every part of the world express the joy of vocation and fidelity to their identity in the Church, a testimony that sometimes leads to martyrdom. The two letters Rejoice and Keep Watch launched a journey of shared reflection, serious and significant, that raised existential questions for our life as individuals and as members of an institute. It is proper now to continue our common reflection, and fix our gaze on the heart of our life of discipleship. Let us direct our gaze into the depths of our life, seeking the reasons underlying our pilgrimage in search of God, and examine the contemplative dimension of our lives so we may recognise the mystery of grace that sustains us, exhilarates us and transfigures us. Pope Francis calls us with eager concern to turn the gaze of our life to Jesus, but also allow him to look at us in order “to realise ever anew that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life”.1 He invites us to train the gaze of our heart because “true love is always contemplative”.2 The theological relationship of the consecrated person with the Lord (confessio Trinitatis), fraternal communion with those who are called to live the same charism (signum fraternitatis), and mission as revelation of God’s merciful love amidst the human community (servitium caritatis): all this comes back to the neverexhausted search for the face of God, to obedient listening to his Word, in order to reach the contemplation of the living and true God. The various forms of consecrated life - eremitic and virginal, monastic and canonical, conventual and apostolic, secular and new fraternities - drink from the spring of contemplation, refresh themselves at it and receive strength. In it they encounter the mystery that dwells within them and find fulness for living the evangelical paradigm of consecration, communion, and mission.

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Pope Francis, apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24th November 2013), 264. Ibid., 199.

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This letter - which carries on from the instruction The Contemplative Dimension of Religious Life (1980), the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata (1996), the apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte (2001), and the instructions Starting Afresh from Christ (2002) and Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram (2008) - comes to you, therefore, as an invitation opening onto the mystery of God, the foundation of our whole life. This is an invitation that opens before us a horizon never to be reached and never fully mastered: our relationship with the secret of the living God, the primacy of life in the Spirit, the communion of love with Jesus, the centre of life and constant source of every initiative,3 a living experience that demands to be shared.4 The desire resounds: Set me as a seal upon your heart (Song 8:6). The Holy Spirit who alone knows and moves within our depths, intimior intimo meo,5 accompanies us in this truth-telling, buildingup and transforming of our lives, so that it may welcome and rejoice in a Presence that dwells within is, desired and loved, a true confessio Trinitatis in the Church and in the human city: “We make ourselves all the more ready to receive it when we have more faith in believing it, more firmness in hoping in it, more ardour in desiring it”.6 The mystical cry that recognises the Beloved, You are the fairest of the sons of men (Ps 45:3), as the power of love makes the Church fruitful and, in the human city, reassembles Beauty’s lost and broken fragments.

Cf. Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, instruction Starting Afresh from Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium (19th May 2002), 22.

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Cf. John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata (25th March 1996), 16.

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Cf. St Augustine, Confessions III, 6, 11. Ibid., Ep 130, 8, 17.

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PROLOGUE

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Through the streets and through the squares; I want to seek the beloved of my heart. (Song of Songs, 3:2)

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Listening 2. A person who loves is imbued with a power, experiences the Paschal nature of existence, and accepts the risk of leaving self in order to encounter the other - not only in an external place, but also on the inside; and discovers that his own good consists in dwelling within the other and welcoming him into oneself. Love directs a new gaze toward others, a gaze of special intimacy, by virtue of which the other person does not remain on the level of ideas, does not stay at the threshold, but enters into the private world of our own feelings to the point of becoming the beloved of my heart (Song 3:2), “the one I have sought”. This is the dynamism that permeates the Song of Songs (in Hebrew, šîr haššîrîm), a book so superlative as to be called the “holy of holies” of the First Testament. It is the first of the five scrolls (meghillôt) that have a special liturgical significance for Jews: it is read during the celebration of Passover itself. This sublime song celebrates the beauty and attractive power of the love between man and woman, which blossoms within a story composed of desire, seeking, encounter, and which becomes exodus by going out through the streets and squares (Song 3:2) and kindles in the world the fire of the love of God. If human love is presented in the book as a divine flame (Song 8:6; alhebetyâ), the flame of Yāh, it is because it is the most sublime way (1 Cor 12:31) It is the reality without which man is nothing (1 Cor 13:2), it is the thing that brings the creature closest to God. Love is the resonance and fruit of God’s very nature. The creature who loves is humanised, but at the same time also experiences the beginning of a process of divinisation because God is love (1 John 4:10,16). The creature who loves is striving toward fulness and peace, toward šalom, which is the harbour of communion, just as it is for the spouses of the Song who bear this šalom in their name, he is Šelōmōh, she Šûlammît (the Shulamite). The Song has been interpreted in a literal way, as a celebration of the power of the human love between a woman and a man, but also in an allegorical way, in the great Jewish and Christian tradition, as speaking of the relationship between God and Israel, Christ and the Church. The book, however, finds its fulcrum in the spousal dynamic of love. In the manner of a parable which helps to move us into a different place where we speak 11

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the living language of lovers that heals the wounds of solitude, dejection, and selfishness, it leads us back into the present moment by suggesting to us that life does not progress by the imposing of commands or constraints, nor by means of rules; but by virtue of an ecstasy, an enchantment, a rapture that takes us out of ourselves, sets us on a journey and reads history from a perspective of relationship, communion, and agape. This spousal love, that engages all the senses and inspires the steps of the journey: the human creature can live it not only toward another human being, but also toward God. This is what happens to a person who is consecrated to God in the wisdom-bearing setting and the fertile atmosphere of the evangelical counsels, focussed on proclaiming the primacy of a relationship with him. This is why the Song is a shining beacon for the consecrated. The Song, defined as a hymn of unitive mysticism, can also be read as the journey of the heart on its way to God, as an existential pilgrimage toward the encounter with the God made flesh who loves nuptially. It can be read as a symphony of spousal love, encompassing the disquiet of the search for the beloved (d么d), the arrival at the encounter that satisfies the heart, and the savouring of choice and mutual belonging. In the light of the Song, consecrated life appears as a vocation to the love that thirsts for the living God (Ps 42:3; 63:2), that kindles in the world the search for the hidden God (1 Ch 16:11; Ps 105:4; Is 55:6; Am 5:6; Zeph 2:3), and that encounters him in the faces of the brethren (Mt 25:40). It is there that God finds room to pitch his tent (Rev 21:3): in prayer or in the depths of the heart where God loves to live (Gal 2:20). Consecrated men and women move towards Christ in order to encounter his words that are spirit and life (Jn 6:63). They are intent on finding him in sacred places, but also in the streets and in the squares (Song 3:2), and are deputised to make the personal encounter with his love a passion that intercedes in history.

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